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By Chris Marchand
Battle-scarred veteran of federal politics, Bob Nault, is looking to make a comeback after a decade in hiatus.
The former Kenora MP (1988-2004) and Indian Affairs and Northern Development Minister in Jean Chretien’s cabinet announced last week he was seeking the nomination for the Liberal Party of Canada in the riding of Kenora for the next federal election.
After 16 years, Nault didn’t seek re-election in 2004, saying he was looking to spend time with his young family.
Since leaving politics, Nault started his own business where he works with First Nations, high tech companies and public sector organizations across the country advising on issues of governance, energy and government relations.
Now, he says, seems like the right moment to stage a return.
“I’ve made the decision on two fronts,” said Nault. “One is my impression of the leader of the Liberal Party and what he is saying and why I think he’ll make a great Prime Minister. I’d like to be a part of that new wave of leadership and those who see the world a little bit differently than the government we have now. The second part is my values. I’m not happy with our present government. I don’t like the direction they’re going in and I don’t believe northerners have the same values as this government. These aren’t ‘progressive’ conservatives — similar to the Leo Bernier days. These are Reform Party-type Conservatives and they have a very different view of how the country and the government should be run.”
Nault says he doesn’t understand the Harper government’s cuts to the Veteran’s Affairs ministry at a time when returning soldiers are in need of more support than ever.
“We’ve had a lot of veterans coming back from Afghanistan and a lot of need for different kinds of programs. Our understanding that some 160 veterans have committed suicide is shocking and shows that, as a percentage compared to other countries, we’re doing very badly.”
Nault says he thinks the Harper government’s changes to federal environmental regulations only served to marginalize members of the Canadian public and the scientific community who expressed valid concerns about resource development projects.
“No matter what we do in governments, we’re going to have to deal with people who disagree with us,” he said. “We have to allow them a voice. When you gut the environmental assessment process like they did to try to find a quicker way to build pipelines, I think that was a huge mistake. Now we have people who are dead-set against ever allowing a pipeline to happen and it’s going to be even more difficult for the next government to change that, even though many of us think pipelines are important and necessary to get our products to market.”
During his tenure, Nault says he too faced the prospect of seeing federal support for the Experimental Lakes Area withdrawn, a situation in which he said he ultimately intervened.
“Why wouldn’t a Member of Parliament do what I did in 1995 and make it very clear to the minister that it isn’t going to happen under my watch. If you don’t have enough clout to stop a $2 million cut, then I don’t exactly know what you’re doing in Ottawa. That’s not a lot of money in the game they’re playing.”
Nault says Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is a formidable presence on the political scene, a personality that is ready to be tested. Nault likes Trudeau’s willingness to meet with provincial Premiers, his efforts to distance the Liberal Party from the Senate, and his recent private member’s bill on transparecy and accountability.
“What impresses me is that he’s made it very clear that he’s going to be available, he’s going to be transparent and he’s going to be accountable to the people which is what I expect and believe in very strongly as an individual.”
Nault says he’ll spend the next eight months talking to residents of the riding and will use those experiences to prepare a northern vision, strategy and platform that will identify ways for varying levels of government to collaborate on opportunities.
The next federal election will be Monday Oct. 19, 2015.